OHIO’S 83RD DISTRICT REP. Jon Cross, left, and Ohio’s 1st District Sen. Rob McColley speak during the Hancock County Republican Party’s First Friday luncheon at the D.O.C.K. behind St. Marks United Methodist Church on Friday. The politicians described an optimistic working atmosphere at the Ohio Legislature while singling out Gov. Mike DeWine for praise. (Photo by Denise Grant / The Courier)

By DENISE GRANT

Staff Writer

The Hancock County Republican Party, which delayed its First Friday luncheon this month due to the New Year’s holiday, started 2020 with an update on legislation set to move through Ohio’s statehouse this year.

Both Ohio’s 1st District Sen. Rob McColley and 83rd District Rep. Jon Cross provided a legislative update and an overview to the group on Friday.

Both McColley and Cross described the atmosphere in Columbus as optimistic. Both said they enjoy working with Gov. Mike DeWine. They said DeWine spends a lot of time working with the Legislature, unlike former Gov. John Kasich, who often found himself at odds with both houses.

“We’re pleased to have a governor we can work with,” Cross said.

Both McColley and Cross are very proud that Ohio lawmakers passed the “heartbeat bill” last year. In April 2019, DeWine signed the bill into law. It prohibits abortion after a heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as the sixth week of pregnancy.

McColley said DeWine signaled very early on that he was willing to sign the bill, and he did, one day after it arrived on his desk. However, on July 3, a federal judge blocked implementation of the bill, just days before the new law was set to take effect.

There were indications during Friday’s address, however, that McColley and Cross plan to challenge DeWine on at least one issue in the new year: DeWine’s STRONG Ohio gun-control proposal.

According to the governor’s office, STRONG Ohio would:

• Create a process in Ohio law, similar to the current probate court process that directs those suffering from severe mental health conditions into court-ordered treatment, to give hospitals and courts a better ability to help those who are legally declared to be a danger to themselves or others due to drug dependency or chronic alcoholism;

• Ensure that citizens have full due process at all probate court hearings;

• Ensure that those legally declared by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others do not have access to firearms;

• Give family members of those who may be a danger to themselves or others because of drug dependency or chronic alcoholism the ability to more easily petition the probate court for court-ordered treatment;

• Mandate that law enforcement agencies and courts enter certain protection orders and arrest warrants for serious crimes into state and federal law enforcement databases to ensure more accurate background check results;

• Create a new private-sale background check process that will increase the number of background checks conducted in Ohio while also protecting the privacy of law-abiding gun owners;

• Create a legal safe harbor for firearms sellers who require private-sale background checks;

• Increase penalties for those who sell or provide a firearm to someone legally prohibited from possessing a gun;

• Give judges a range of sentences for felony cases in which a gun was either possessed, brandished, or used;

• Increase the penalty for those who are found with a gun while legally prohibited from possessing a firearm;

• Increase the penalty for selling a gun to a minor;

• Increase penalties for straw purchases and knowingly possessing a straw-purchased gun.

DeWine called the bill Ohio’s “No. 1 priority.” On Friday, however, McColley said he is a “no vote,” and called the legislation “bad law.”

For example, McColley explained that selling a gun, without seeking information on the buyer’s criminal background or mental health, could subject Ohioans to criminal charges.

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